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Critics & Caterpillars, Cooks & Cardiologists: Experiencing the Transformation of Our Profession

Invited Speaker Jared Spool (User Interface Engineering)
Usability perspectives
8:30am to 10:00am on Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Session Details

The old saying is still true: Constant change is here to stay. In the more than 30 years since the first computer usability test was conducted, our field has seen many changes.

Today, designing great experiences has become a priority in many executive boardrooms, giving both credence and resources to those involved in the process of eliminating frustration and increasing customer delight. Financial successes and high customer engagement, from brands like Nintendo, Netflix, Virgin, Starbucks, and Apple, have shown us that a great experience is smart business.

Yet, while the new jobs for interaction designers grow faster than the market can supply them, the demand for usability professionals is in decline. Organizations conducting thousands of usability tests each year are delivering experiences far worse than those organizations without any formal user research. Usability professionals still crave that return-on-investment argument that will win over the executives, only to find that their persuasive arguments often fall on deaf ears.

This paradox -- increased demand for experience design resources along with decreased desire for formal usability practices -- tells us that a transformation is underway. Those practices and beliefs that have defined our work for the past 20 years are facing a seachange and only those prepared to make the shift will make it through what will likely be a turbulent period.

In this keynote, Jared will share some of User Interface Engineering's latest research into the fundamentals of great experience design and the metamorphosis our field is undergoing. He'll show how a blended approach to design thinking is the most successful, requiring the usability professional to move beyond providing rigid criticism into providing leadership for collaborative critique. He'll look at the needs of the design team, asking if we're better off acting as a cadre of elite chefs or serving the needs as a collection of cooks. And he'll talk about the optimal team construction for successful experience design, demonstrating how the medical model for specialization fares better than our current practice of role-based compartmentalization.

If you've ever had a chance to see Jared speak, you then know how he always delivers an entertaining presentation that never fails to inspire. It will be the perfect beginning to a great conference.

Jared M. Spool is an enigma of the usability profession. He is a charter member of the profession, having conducted some of the first usability tests ever in the late 1970s. Because he's called on to speak at more than 30 conferences each year, entertainingly explaining the latest trends and techniques in experience design, he has earned respect throughout the design world as an ambassador of designing great experiences.

Yet, he's always been a controversial figure within the community of usability professionals. He is known for his humorously delivered no-nonsense approach to our work that regularly challenges the current thinking. He has the unique talent to issue broad brush statements about the contradictions in our working beliefs, while backing up his assertions with well-considered and thoroughly-researched data (making arguing with him extremely difficult). His advice is coveted, yet he's regularly banned for disrupting community discussions. Even our own UPA Voice referred to him as the "bad boy of usability" -- a reputation he's proud to have earned.

He considers his return as keynote for the annual UPA conference (he was the opening keynote presenter at the first UPA conference in 1992) as a milestone, one which he should probably be on his best behavior for. However, pushing the boundaries is a hobby of his and, well, he's probably not going to let this opportunity go by unchallenged. Of course, you should come hear him speak and you can form your own opinion.

If you want to find out more about Jared, you can find him writing and blog posts at User Interface Engineering's web site,